Pacifism -- a Doctrine of Non-Violence Pacifism Essay

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Pacifism -- a Doctrine of Non-Violence

Pacifism is a theory which provides the basis of anti-violence behavior. It is an ideology which defines the permissibility of violence on the basis of morality and ethics. Where pacifism is appreciated and consider as a necessary behavior required for having stability in a society as it promotes tolerance; a lot of criticism has also been made on this particular theory. It is said that Pacifists are inconsistent. For they consider violence (or war) an absolute evil; but an absolute evil must be resisted by all necessary means, and pacifists reject using violence (or war) even when it is such a necessary means. The strict nature of this theory gives rise to a confused situation where decision regarding justification of war and violence, is difficult to ascertain.

Pacifism is the fundamental ideology of all those who are against initiating and contributing in a war. Other than just being against warfare, it further asserts that repellent use of force against force is not justified and is immoral. Hence, Pacifism provides a just model which if duly followed can help in eliminate all the evils in the society.

Pacifism is a philosophy of all those who are in opposition of waging any war. Other than simple disagreement to warfare in a general sense, it asserts that even application of force as a result of violence, is not permissible irrespective of the circumstances. This modern view of pacifism appears to be opposite of classic theories, where pacifism was presented as an idea which did not renounce physical force when used in "the interest of moral government" (Buckham 89).

As per Narveson, "the philosophical validity of contemporary pacifism in its many forms is examined and shown to have significant problems that threaten the doctrine's legitimacy." Narveson makes a fairly valid argument when he says that only a single form of pacifism has shown valid consistency. In the later phase, Narveson argues that even this consistent model has some fundamental problems due to which efforts of making this doctrine viable have not shown any accomplishment.

Where pacifism allows no defense irrespective of the circumstances, the only valid form of it is the basic principle which explains that all the individuals in a society are under this moral obligation of not harming their fellows. Where this theory prohibits the use of force as a defensive tool, under this theory. The entire justice system should be disintegrated, which provides menaces of the society to do whatever they want.

In response to this Narveson says, "the pacifist will then state that he cannot defend himself but has an obligating of protecting others." Now the question arises what are the attributes of other people which makes it an obligating for us to defend them when we are unable to defend our own people. As a defender, one should understand these attributes. It is necessary that a pacifist understands that only an unprotected person should be protected. But this will give rise to a logical issue as individuals will protect themselves as there are no other means of protecting themselves. Hence, those who cannot defend themselves are worthy of this leverage and they are allowed to opt for violence as a result. (Narveson, 1969).

Again, pacifism ignores this argument as it leads to a double effect. This is so because allowing the defense of unprotected one, makes it legitimate to protect one's self irrespective of the intention. The act is morally justified and is still against the basic principle of Pacifism.

Furthermore, this doctrine of double effect has a definite problem. The double effect assumes that as long as everything ends well, efforts made to achieve it, are justified even if they have evil intention and can be forecasted. As the pacifism is based on non-violence, the problem emerges when in the pursuit of defending other, one ends up committing act of violence while protecting himself and resultant is an appearance of bigger evils. The most viable reason would be adopting violent ways unnecessarily while protecting others.

Other than these empirical problems that might emerge as a result of pacifism, there is a fundamental issue and that is, if by principle, it is equivalent to committing an evil act by defending violence, why the unprotected should be protected at all? Where the defense of unprotected ones is unjustified as it involves violence irrespective of its legitimacy, a pacifist would consider it inappropriate to defend others; especially when protecting one 'self is also part of the problem.

In response to the critics of pacifism, one needs to have a clear idea of what pacifism really is. Where pacifism opposes the use of power in response to violence, the basic fundamentals of traditional pacifism is a great worth of human life which is held by the pacifist so definitely that they deny that any end could sufficiently justify treating another human with violence (Kelley, 2006). This is the reason why absolute or classic pacifism considers use of power and force as an evil in all circumstances. In response to the question that who should be protected under this doctrine, a specific class argues that only those who are followers of pacifism have this obligating of not using power in return. However, an issue arises when this decision becomes a personal choice rather than a basic universal principle.

As an answer to this criticism, the supporters of Pacifism state that while as per morality, it is perfectly alright to believe in non-pacifism, non-violence is still a better way of living life. (Ihara, 1978, p. 369). In the support of Pacifism, various versions have been presented. Where they all prohibit the use of force, to what extent is the major difference between them. There are views which consider pacifism and the just war theory as the complete opposite of each other.

The extremism on these two ends has a lot of difference in their fundamental application to human life. (Kelley, 2006). Where just war theory explains that any means of force can be used in order to achieve the objective which is important than life and its well-being, Pacifism illustrates that there is nothing else having more value than a human life and anything which threatens it should be condemned.

Just war theory holds that the use of force as a means may be necessary when there is a goal that is more important than individual life or well-being. Absolute pacifism denies that any goal can justify the use of force that threatens human life.

Another version of Pacifism emphasizes that force can be used for required purposes unless it doesn't threaten human life (Kelly, 2006). Where this theory presents an idea that human life has a fundamental importance and it also addresses faced by absolute pacifism, it also leaves a room for violent actions. Hence, a basic system with necessary details will be required. As per Kelly,

"all forms of pacifism other than the absolute one have a non-lethal nature. However, there are circumstances under which value of other concerns may exceed the value of human life and violence becomes permissible. (Kelley, 2006, p. 220). On the basis of this differentiation, even pacifists are of two types now, Andre Comte-Sponville similarly gives a difference between those who believe in absolute pacifism (which has an absolute zero tolerance for violence) and the peaceable form of it (which allows use of force in certain circumstance. (1996, p. 191).

With reference to other versions of Pacifism, where defending others is permissible but protecting oneself is not, then a fundamental question arises as to what differentiates oneself from all other people and how a threat to others is enough to justify the evil of using force while a threat to self is not (Narveson, 1965). Hence, everyone would have an obligation to protect others but not oneself. Narvenson provides that where the condemnation of force denies individual just right of using force, it further prohibits the use of force for self-defense as well. Hence, these less strict models of Pacifism provide rather inconsistent views. As explained by Kelly and Narvenson, only absolute Pacifism has the most consistent model and any other version leaving a loophole leads to mere confusion.

Now that we have established that only absolute Pacifism has a consistent model, and it should be supported as it advocates the protection of human life at any cost. One can look into history for a proof that violence in response to violence has only resulted in aggravation of evil. Where the apparent evils of war include loss of precious human life, economic turmoil, and moral and spiritual difficulties that millions had to face over centuries. Pacifists believe that if war is abandoned on national basis and the support of world's nations can be attained on this, major global evils can be eliminated. The non-pacifist may argue that this policy of non-violence may endanger the sovereignty of a national as this regime may result in non-resistance making it vulnerable to external application…

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